Charlottesville, Va.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

Marketers are spending 26 percent more on paid search this year, if they're anything like search and digital marketing agency RKG's clients. The Charlottesville, Va.-based agency, a Merkle company, released findings comparing Q3 2014 results with those from Q3 2013.

A few weeks ago, my teenage daughter and I drove from Charlottesville, Va., to Boston on a 1,200-mile college tour. At each college we visited, we were handed beautiful brochures to match the equally beautiful campuses. Each school had taken great pains to maximize their image -- or brand -- in an effort to impress tens of thousands of prospective students, even though they will actually accept only a small fraction of them.

While there aren't too many elements within a paid search listing to test, there are myriad front-end and back-end variables that affect results-from search engine to ranking, landing page to conversion process.

The following are a few metrics search experts find indispensable to determining the effectiveness of paid search programs.

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